A Travellerspoint blog

Trolling To Wellington

Napier, Hawkes Bay through the Wairarapa to Wellington

rain 70 °F
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It was raining when we left Wellington for the South Island on our trip here 3 years ago..........and it's still raining!

We left Napier yesterday morning and headed through sheep stations, dairy farms, vineyards and orchards through small county towns. We left the interstate and took the road less traveled several times during the day and were rewarded with two interesting stops.

The first is a town called Norsewood which is located in the heart of what was once the dense and towering forest known as the Seventy Mile Bush. The town was established in 1872, with the arrival of a total of 752 mostly Norwegian immigrants. Most of these people became Norsewood's pioneer settlers.


This small, charming and tidy town still retains a predominantly Scandinavian feel and is sprinkled with museums, trolls at each street corner, Nordic buildings and several memorials.


The second is a town further south called Featherston.

The original town grew very slowly until the arrival of the railway in 1878. This was a major feat because of the steep Rimutaka Ranges which had to be crossed. The famous Fell Engines, using horizontal wheels gripping a raised centre rail, were needed on the Wairarapa side of the range, and a small village was constructed at Cross Creek to service the railway. Over 100 people lived there but with no shops provided, Featherston businesses benefited. The price of land doubled overnight, as Wellington was now only a few hours away.

Nowadays, Featherston's main claim to fame is The Fell Engine Museum, which houses the last of the locomotives that made the 1 in 5 grade climb on three rails over the Rimutaka Incline from 1890 until 1955 when a tunnel was built.

We were fortunate to meet with Cliff Lee, one of the men who painstakingly restored the only existing Fell Engine in the world. He was born and raised in Featherstone and is one of the last surviving employees of the line. He recently wrote a book about the history of the rail line and the locomotives which we purchased which he signed for us.


We then headed toward windy, wet Wellington. We're staying in the Cuba neighborhood of Wellington which hosts an annual street festival, The Cuba Street Carnival. It happens to be this weekend so we'll be right in the midst of dancing, music and street performances. Hopefully the pouring rain will stop although we doubt that will keep people away.

We certainly seem to be timing things right as far as festivals and celebrations - more luck than planning!

Next excursion is our crossing to the South Island for a week. Stay tuned.

Kia Ora!

Trevor & Rebecca

Did you know?

No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are located less than 128 kilometers from the ocean.

Posted by usroyal 18:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged automotive Comments (3)

Hooked On Cook

From Whakatane, Bay Of Plenty to Gisborne, Poverty Bay to Napier, Hawke's Bay.

sunny 80 °F
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On 6th October 1769, Nicholas Young, the surgeon's boy, sighted the coastline of New Zealand from the masthead of Captain James Cook's Royal Navy ship, "The Endeavour".

On 8th October "The Endeavour" sailed into a bay, and laid anchor at the entrance of a small river in Tuuranga-nui [today's Poverty Bay, near modern Gisborne]. Cook named a peninsula in the bay "Young Nick's Head" after Nicholas Young.


Over the next three days, the Maori inhabitants, met, skirmished with and were killed by people from a world totally new to them.

Cook deeply regretted his failure to establish cordial relations with the Maoris and upset by the killings which had already taken place, decided to leave this area. He gave it the name Poverty Bay, as he had been unable to take on supplies.

During the next six months, Cook, the British seaman and explorer, circumnavigated New Zealand producing a remarkably accurate chart of its coastline thereby placing this country and its people on the world map.


Seems like we've been gone months, since we've done so much but we've been here only two and a half weeks now. We left Whakatane and drove to Gisborne (pronounced Gisbun) through the Waioeka Gorge, a 150 kilometer gorge, across the eastern panhandle of the North Island.

Gisborne, a city of bridges, is a port city and the site of Captain Cook's first landing in New Zealand.

We then drove to Napier around the coast of Hawke's Bay. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and originally established as a whaling station in the 1840's , this elegant city is a memorial to the 1931 earthquake which devastated most of the buildings and killed many people. During rebuilding, an earthquake-proof building code was enforced and architects adopted the then fashionable Art Deco style. Napier is probably a unique example of an entire city that has been built in a single coherent architectural style.


We happened to be in Napier for their annual Art Deco Weekend. We saw vintage cars, people dressed in the Great Gatsby attire, and building after building architected in Art Deco style.


We're now on our way to Windy Wellington, which according to the weather report will live up to its reputation during our visit!

Kia Ora!

Trevor & Rebecca

Did You Know?

The place with the longest name in common usage is a 252 metre high hill in Central Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. Taumata whaka tangi hanga koauau o tamatea turi pukakapi ki maunga horo nuku poka i whenua kitana tahu translates as the 'place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as land-eater, played his flute to his loved one'. This is the place name recognised by the Guinness Book of Records. It is sometimes written without the spaces as one long word.

Posted by usroyal 12:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged automotive Comments (2)

One Man's Magnificent Obsession & The Heart Of Gold

The Coromandel Peninsula To Whakatane, Bay Of Plenty

semi-overcast 0 °F
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Two spirals, three short tunnels, five reversing points, several large viaducts and twenty six years to build!

Hello from sunny Whakatane, in the Bay Of Plenty. We have just arrived here after spending the past few days on the Coromandel Peninsula in Whitianga where we saw some beautiful and interesting sites.


Probably the most interesting was New Zealand's only narrow-gauge mountain railway along with a working pottery and wild life sanctuary.

Barry Brickell, one of New Zealand's most prolific and best known potters and railway enthusiasts, has almost single-handedly built a 3km long narrow gauge railway through the bush on 60 acres. Track laying began in 1975 and over the following 26 years he built the railway line, the rail cars and the Eyefull Tower, a viewing building at the top of the mountain, with his own two hands and not much else!

There are five major viaducts and five reversing points up the main line as well as two horseshoe spirals, on the route to the summit. The double deck viaduct is unique. In a return trip on the railway, trains pass over it four times in different directions on both levels. The two levels are connected by a spiral all in very rugged, forested terrain. Its construction alone took two years.


Barry Brickell is also an ardent conservationist, driven by the need to restore the land and its uniquely magnificent indigenous kauri forests. The early British colonists and colonial governments strove to replace forest with farm land for economic survival, but the price was very high by ecological standards. Vast areas of magnificent native forest were destroyed.

Proceeds from the railway fund this huge scheme to replace the native forest cover and arrest soil erosion for all time. To date over nine thousand Kauri trees have been replanted.

Today we drove the east side of the Coromandel Peninsula to Whakatane, the sunniest place in New Zealand.

Along the way we stopped in Waihi , New Zealand's "Heart Of Gold" to see The Martha Mine, an open pit gold mine. Viewing the open pit from above was fascinating, imagining how many people have worked in the mine over the last 150 years and also imagining how much earth was moved and crushed to mine the minerals.

Unfortunately, we didn't discover any gold ourselves so we have to be satisfied with the pictures we took!


Next we continue our journey along the east coast of the North Island......

Posted by usroyal 21:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged automotive Comments (2)

A Mythical Journey

Kerikeri to Cape Reinga to Ninety Mile Beach to Dargaville to Coromandel Peninsula

semi-overcast 0 °F
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The area comprising New Zealand's northernmost point, Cape Reinga, is shrouded in Maori myth. According to Maori legend, the great curve of Ninety Mile Beach traces the route taken by the dead on their journey to the homeland of Hawaiki. Their final departure point is said to be at the tip of Cape Reinga.

Here we are again - we've been busy over the last couple of days with boat, bus and car trips and are now on the Coromandel Peninsula in Whitianga. We have seen some awesome sights and have been on tours that have explained Maori traditions, New Zealand geology and Kiwi history.

The tour to Cape Reinga was informative with an early stop to see a Kauri tree that is over one thousand years old. From there we made our way up to Cape Reinga. Unfortunately it was foggy (reminiscent of San Francisco) and we couldn't see much but the tour was fantastic as the tour guide had so much knowledge about Maori culture and history.


After we left Cape Reinga, we drove along a river bed (in a 60 seater coach) to 90 Mile Beach. The beach is an unmaintained highway. It was odd sitting on a bus driving on a beach for 60 miles (90 Mile Beach is actually only 60 miles) legally.


On the journey we had the opportunity to stop and see Motupia Island, a pierced rock that according to Maori mythology is the anchor stone of the great god Maui, who fished up the North Island.


The following day we drove to the west coast of the Northland through the spectacular Waipoua Forest to see the oldest Kauri tree in the world, Tane Mahuta, "The Lord of the Forest", which is over 1500 years old and 160 feet tall. It was pouring rain when we stopped. We waited over and hour for the rain to subside but it never did so we got soaked to the skin on our walk into the forest. Later, when we stopped in Dargaville for the night, we learned that the Waipoua Forest is actually a rain forest and we could have waited there days for the rain to stop - we would still be there now!


Wednesday, we drove from Dargaville to Whitianga and experienced rugged west coast, rainforest, inland fertile valleys, the city of Auckland, lush farmlands, spectacular coastline,marines and fishing villages all in one day.

We plan to chill out in Whitianga for a couple of days - we would love to hear from you through either through our blog or directly via our Gmail accounts.

Here is the link to our ever expanding photo gallery:


Simply cut and paste into your browser to see more pictures of our excellent adventure!

Posted by usroyal 12:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (4)

Fiery Breath [Haka]

Waitangi, Bay Of Islands, Northland, New Zealand

sunny 82 °F
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No - the above video is not a clip of The Lawton's being asked to leave New Zealand by the local Maori Tribes. We were extremely fortunate to happen upon the Maori's celebrating with each other - prior to the formal festivities at Waitangi.

To most people, the haka is a war dance. The literal translation is "fiery breath" and a fierce attitude accompanies the performance of traditional haka. The NZ Maori haka challenge was a mark of respect for visitors and opponents.

Yesterday we parked about 4 kilometers away from Waitangi Treaty Grounds and joined a couple of local New Zealanders walking to the formal festival. Along the way we saw about 20 war canoes pulling into Hururu Falls so we walked onto the beach and were privileged to watch (with less than 100 spectators) a private ceremony the tribes performed to welcome visiting tribes and celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document. This agreement was signed by Maori tribal leaders and representatives of the British Crown, but has since been the focus for controversy.

While the document gave Maori rights to their land, it also brought New Zealand under the control of the British Empire. Language differences and incorrect translation meant that Maori and English versions of the Treaty differed greatly - there has been much debate during the twentieth century about the terms agreed to within the Treaty. Settlements between Maori and the New Zealand Government of today are ongoing.


After the ceremony we attended the formal celebration with our new found New Zealand friends - it was a very special, informative day. Janine and Mike, who live in The Northland, are very knowledgeable about local history. Janine has published several historical books about the Maori history and culture so they were the perfect guides for our Waitangi Day celebrations.

We even went native for lunch and ate a traditional meal, Hungi, which is meat, vegetables and rice which is cooked underground and eaten with your fingers. Mmmmmmmmm good!

Today we enjoyed a spectacular all day boat tour of the Bay of Islands. The area consists of over 150 islands dotted around the aquamarine water. The attached picture is of Motukokako - Hole in the Rock.


Kia Ora!

Posted by usroyal 20:39 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (0)

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